Screening right now –– plus at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. tonight (Friday) at Cinema Latino –– is 8 Murders a Day, New York City director Charlie Minn’s contemplative, moody documentary about “perhaps the greatest human-rights disaster in the world today, with no apparent end in sight,” the violence in Juarez, Mexico. In 2007, the bordertown averaged fewer than one murder per day. As little as a couple of years ago, the city began averaging eight murders a day. One explanation is the turf war between the Juarez drug cartel, led by Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, and the Sinoloa drug cartel, led by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. They’re battling over the coveted smuggling routes into the United States –– Americans’ ravenous demand for illegal drugs has also led to a massive infusion of seemingly countless weapons and infinite cash into Mexico, specifically the bordertowns.
There’s enough blame to go around, though: the poor economic conditions of bordertowns like Juarez, the United States’ war on drugs, local police and journalists, all in the opinions of the print and TV journalists, authors, and professors interviewed by Minn. But while the Mexican government’s inaction receives a lot of screen-time, no one entity is castigated. You could argue that Minn should have taken a less journalistic, more advocacy-minded kind of role and pointed some fingers. Another minor quibble: Some stats-heavy facts pop up onscreen but don’t stay there long enough to be read in their entirety or, worse, sink in fully.
Still, the documentary is sobering and, with its stylized ambient shots interspersed with news reports and homemade video footage, is a powerful visual experience.
Minn got the idea for 8 Murders a Day while researching one of his previous films, A Nightmare in Las Cruces –– Las Cruces and Juarez are only about a 45-minute drive apart. Minn finished 8 Murders a Day in about six months, and he funded the entire project himself. “I hope this film will go global so people can see what is going on in Juarez, home to the greatest human rights disaster in the world today, and nothing is being done about it,” Minn said.